When it comes to new build housing, the quality of brickwork plays a crucial role in the overall durability, structural integrity, and visual appeal of the property. In this article, we will explore the key factors that define good brickwork, the NHBC standards for brickwork, the significance of perp ends, the factors influencing color differences in brickwork, the effectiveness of brick tinting, how to ensure consistent texture, strength, and color of mortar, the placement of movement joints, dealing with cracked bricks, and the testing of mortar.
Defining Good Brickwork
Good brickwork is characterised by several important factors that contribute to its quality and longevity:
Level and Plumb
Good brickwork should be straight, level, and plumb. This means that the walls should be erected without leaning to one side, ensuring a visually pleasing appearance.
The bond pattern of the brickwork should be uniform and stable. Proper bonding, with staggered joints and overlap between courses, ensures the strength and stability of the wall.
The mortar joints should be consistent in thickness and shape, with no gaps or bulges. Proper tooling of the joints enhances the finished appearance and prevents water penetration.
Brickwork should be free from excess mortar smears, stains, or debris. Both bricks and mortar should be clean and free of chips or cracks, maintaining an attractive aesthetic.
Brickwork should be structurally sound, devoid of cracks, bulges, or bowing. This ensures the long-term stability and safety of the structure.
The overall appearance of the brickwork should be visually pleasing, with well-chosen colors, textures, and finishes. The selection and coordination of these elements contribute to the property’s curb appeal.
Attention to Detail
Good brickwork requires meticulous attention to detail, including proper spacing and alignment of bricks, correct mortar mixing and application, and consistent joint widths. This ensures a high-quality finish and craftsmanship.
NHBC Standards for Good Brickwork
The National House Building Council (NHBC) has set specific standards to ensure high-quality brickwork in new home construction. These standards include:
Level, Plumb, and Square
Brickwork should be accurately laid, maintaining levelness, plumbness, and squareness throughout the construction process.
Bricks should be laid with the appropriate bond, ensuring a consistent bond pattern for structural stability.
The mortar should exhibit a consistent color and texture, with full and even joints throughout the brickwork.
Bricks should be free from defects such as chips, cracks, or other structural compromises.
Brickwork should be free from the appearance of a white powdery substance caused by soluble salts within the brick or mortar.
Staining and Discoloration
Brickwork should be free from stains or discoloration caused by improper cleaning materials or weathering, maintaining the desired finished appearance.
Flashing and Detailing
Proper flashing and detailing should be implemented around openings and junctions with other materials to ensure effective weatherproofing.
Expansion and Movement Joints
Expansion and movement joints should be installed as per NHBC standards to accommodate natural structural movements and prevent cracking.
The Significance of Perp Ends
Perp ends, the vertical ends of bricks or blocks in a wall, are crucial for achieving a neat and finished edge, as well as forming the corners of a wall. Properly cut perp ends with levelness and plumbness ensure tight fits and structural integrity.
Factors Influencing Color Differences in Brickwork
The color variations in brickwork can be influenced by several factors, including the type of clay or raw materials used, firing temperature, production methods, exposure to sunlight, mixing of different batches, and improper cleaning. To achieve consistent color, it is important to use bricks from the same batch, avoid mixing batches, and take steps to protect the bricks from sunlight and staining.
The Effectiveness of Brick Tinting
Brick tinting can be an effective way to change the color of brickwork. By applying specialised masonry stains or tints, the color of bricks can be altered to match existing brickwork, refresh faded brickwork, or create a customised look. However, the success of brick tinting depends on the quality of the tinting materials, the porosity of the bricks, and the expertise of the person performing the tinting.
Ensuring Consistent Texture, Strength, and Color of Mortar
To achieve consistent texture, strength, and color of mortar, several factors should be considered. These include the correct mixing ratio of cement, sand, and water, proper mixing technique, high-quality aggregates, the use of compatible color pigments, the correct water content, and appropriate curing methods. By following these guidelines and using high-quality materials, consistent mortar properties can be achieved.
Placement of Movement Joints
Movement joints are essential to accommodate the natural expansion and contraction of building materials due to temperature and humidity changes. They should be strategically placed at corners, intersections, regular intervals along continuous walls, around openings, where there is a change in materials, and where the building is attached to another structure. Proper placement of movement joints prevents cracking and damage caused by thermal expansion and contraction.
Dealing with Cracked Bricks
While some cracking in bricks may be normal due to settling, weathering, or handling, significant cracks should be addressed promptly. Small hairline cracks may not pose a significant problem, but larger cracks wider than 1/16th of an inch or accompanied by other signs of damage require inspection by a professional. Depending on the severity, cracked bricks can be replaced or repaired using appropriate methods and materials.
Testing of Mortar
Mortar is typically tested in a laboratory environment to determine its properties. Tests include the compressive strength test, flexural strength test, water absorption test, air content test, and bond strength test. These tests evaluate the strength, durability, and performance of the mortar, ensuring it meets the necessary standards for construction.
In new build housing, good brickwork is essential for quality, durability, and visual appeal. Adhering to the defined factors of good brickwork, the NHBC standards, and paying attention to perp ends, color consistency, mortar quality, movement joints, cracked bricks, and mortar testing ensure that new homes are constructed to the highest standards. By prioritising skilled craftsmanship, attention to detail, and regular quality checks, builders can deliver brickwork that not only meets the necessary requirements but also enhances the value and longevity of the property.